Driving Advice…From the Non-Drivers

It has come to my attention that I am under the constant scrutiny of a microscope of sorts.  Operated by my children, this highly sensitive device is astonishingly proficient at detecting and magnifying infractions that provoke the users to critique and admonish…while prompting my own sullen realization that the rules from which I have inadvertently strayed are generally those that I have myself created or enforced.

As a parent, I am aware that my children have taught me countless lessons.  Perhaps the most valuable is the importance of very carefully considering my words and actions because of the impact they could have on others, including/especially yours truly.

In other words, I am learning to keep the rope short on which to later hang myself.

There have been other lessons that sometimes emerge from the most unlikely places.  One that I find particularly amusing is, given my kids’ non-existent status with the motor vehicle licensing department, their on-going efforts to, what appears to be, improve my driving.

I admit that it is entirely possible that I have developed a bad habit or two since I started driving about a quarter of a century ago.  My kids, born 13 and 10 years ago, are somehow aware of these habits and comment on, criticize and correct much of what I do behind the wheel.

As a law abiding citizen respectful of speed limits, I do mistakenly exceed them from time to time.  Apparently my kids’ radar shifts into high gear when this happens, and they smugly issue a reminder of the limit.

Exaggerated throat clearing and foot tapping can be heard as we drive out of the driveway when I sometimes pull my own seatbelt into place once the car is moving…after having insisted that the kids’ belts be fastened before we begin to drive.

I am defenceless against many of these reprimands and take full responsibility for creating these backseat drivers.   When frustrated by the carelessness, or – ok, lets call it like it is – stupidity of some drivers, I may mutter a criticism of my own under my breath.  I am then scolded for name calling which I, when using my other set of parenting skills, have told them is never acceptable.

Recently, when pulling into the parking lot of my kids’ school, I paused to see if the car ahead of us was going to park or back up.  As I patiently waited, I was startled by my daughter instructing loudly from the back of the van, “Mom!  Park!”  Calmly, I described the situation ahead of me, relishing the opportunity to explain that I was not actually doing anything wrong.

But after there was no retort to my even-tempered response, I realized that what I had mistaken for impatience in her voice was actually elevated volume because my nine-year-old parking consultant was bellowing orders…while wearing ear phones.

I can safely say that my kids’ unsolicited commentary is not because of fear for their physical well-being. It’s entirely clear that their comfort and confidence is unflappable as they use their knowledge of the rules of the road to critique what they feel are my inadequacies.

When my driving coaches eventually get behind the wheel, my advice, on the other hand, will be safety driven and I desperately hope they remember well and abide by all the guidance they have given me.

Lucky for them, my approach will be kinder, as I have learned the benefits of positive reinforcement and constructive criticism.  Although they’re pretty good with their manners in general, I’m still patiently waiting for, “Wow, Mom, nice job coming to a complete stop at the stop sign!”

originally published in the Waterloo Region Record